Some advice I received long ago:
If you want to be successful, you only have to answer two questions. “What do I want?” And, “What am I willing to pay— in time, money and sweat— to make it happen?”
Time, money and sweat. Sometimes blood and tears, but we’ll leave those aside for now. Time, money and sweat are the currency of success. Anything you want to achieve, whether a skill or an object, requires at least two.
Time as currency is something all fighters understand. Like money, time can be saved, wasted, or spent wisely. It can also be stolen, invested and even counterfeited.
Anything you choose to achieve takes time. Everything takes time, including doing nothing. I can use time and money to buy another person’s sweat, and I can sell my sweat and time for someone else’s money, but there is no amount of money and sweat that can buy even a second of time.
Time can be used skillfully, however. You can borrow the fruits of someone else’s time. I just read a book that was the product of thirty years of research. The author spent thirty years. I spent two days. I don’t have his depth of knowledge, but the knowledge I did gain might have taken a dozen years of trial and error, not to mention a few dissected human corpses.
Learning a system of combat, you get the benefits of generations of mistakes. You would never survive enough encounters yourself to get that depth of knowledge. In a few hours, you can get the distilled wisdom of generations.
The benefits of time can compound, like interest. Skills you learn young are easier to assimilate and always there, even if you need a refresher. Habits, like fitness, laid down early have life-long effects. Years learning a marketable skill can become a lifetime career. Time spent at a job can, if managed, become a comfortable retirement.
When you really want something, you must manage your time. Be clear about what you want. Be specific about the steps that get you closer. Be aware of the activities that feel like progress, but aren’t. Watching training videos is not training.
Money. Time is a currency, but money is a tool. Money is just a symbol, an agreed-upon thing with no intrinsic power, but it can do almost anything. It can provide stuff, if the material is what you like. But if you like skills, money buys you access to the people who have those skills.
A lot of us come from the martial arts, and we have done a very strange thing with ideas of money and value. We traditionally expect commercially successful training centers to teach crap (we call them McDojos) and we expect some old man teaching out of his garage for love of the art to have the good stuff.
Even if that’s true, do you want the old master teaching in his garage to die in poverty? I don’t.
When you become a student, you aren’t paying for the two hours you spend with that instructor. You are paying for the decades that instructor spent to make those two hours valuable. Do your research. Focus on the instructor that will give you the best time value in the subject you want. If you want a course in defensive shooting, a tactical shooting course is an inefficient use of money and time. Look first at best material for you. Then best teacher for you. And then look at price.
Sometimes the good stuff is expensive. Sometimes it’s cheap, since many people with valuable skills are terrible at business.
And sweat. Sometimes it’s brain sweat, often physical, but most things worth acquiring, especially skills and attributes take effort. No one can give you a skill, you have to take it. No one can get strong for you— you have to pump the iron yourself.
Want to be a master musician? That’s gonna take ten thousand hours. Want to be a good pistol shot? You’re going to get blisters and a callous on the middle knuckle of your middle finger. Want to go to the Olympics in judo? That’s going to be years of sweat and impact.
You can buy sweat, if you want objects. When you buy a car, you are buying the labor of other people (and robots.) But for skills and attributes, no one can do it for you.
Everything worth having or becoming has a price.
Epilogue. About blood and tears. There are a lot of skills you can acquire in controlled environments and the only price will be time, money and sweat. When you test those skills in the real world, whether the skills are self-defense or first aid or hostage negotiations, sometimes the new price will be blood or tears. That’s what makes it the real world.